The state’s last large homeless sweep of 2017 saw 70 people, 20 dogs and 22 guinea pigs cleared from a public bike path near the H-1 freeway airport viaduct on Monday.
The encampments around the bike path — on the mauka side of the viaduct in Mapunapuna — had swelled since sheriff’s deputies cleaned out 120 people and removed persistent structures from underneath the viaduct on Oct. 23.
A family of seven swept from the bike path Monday was placed into permanent housing through the Housing First program operated by U.S. Vets and Kalihi-Palama Health Center, said Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator. One female went into a residential treatment program and a family of two entered the Waianae Civic Center homeless shelter, Morishige said.
Nine dogs and 10 guinea pigs were surrendered to the Hawaiian Humane Society, and Humane Society workers and volunteers were still trying to capture 12 more guinea pigs, Morishige said.
But many of the homeless humans planned to continue living on the streets, although they had no idea exactly where.
“I got dogs, no like shelter,” said Raymond Bolitho, 40, who had been living under the viaduct with his sister for nearly 10 years until they were forced out and set up camp next door along the bike path.
Skip Wheeler, who turns 71 on Dec. 18, said he was an Air Force sergeant who served in Vietnam between 1964 and 1968 and has been living “off and on” around the viaduct for eight years.
Wheeler said there is plenty of assistance available to homeless veterans such as himself, but “basically I’m a lazy bum,” adding: “I need adult supervision. I can say that truthfully. I’m not motivated.”
State sheriff’s deputies on Monday cleared land owned by the state Department of Transportation while Honolulu police told the displaced homeless people that they could not move their belongings to the city’s Kilihau Street, which runs parallel to the bike path.
People, their dogs and belongings lined Kilihau Street, and Joanne Burke, office manager for Pacific Diving Industries, told several of them they could not stay in front of the business.
“We’ve been dealing with it for a long time,” Burke said.
Honolulu police Cpl. Leland Cadoy escorts a special city cleanup crew that enforces the city’s separate stored property and sidewalk nuisance ordinances designed to keep walkways clear.
But several people sitting along Kilihau Street with their dogs asked Cadoy to delay enforcement until a public storage business opened across the street, where they promised to move their items.
Cadoy agreed and told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “This is the compassionate part.”
Monday’s sweep represents the last big one for the state this year on Oahu, Morishige said.
It follows much larger ones that cleared 180 people out of Kakaako Waterfront Park and its sister parks on Oct. 3, followed by the Oct. 23 sweep of 120 people from underneath the H-1 freeway viaduct.
On Friday, deputies cleared 55 to 65 homeless people who had set up camp outside Kakaako’s Next Step homeless shelter after they were swept from the Kakaako parks.
While no large sweeps are planned, Morishige said sheriff’s deputies will continue to keep people from setting up tents and tarps along the H-1 and Nimitz Highway corridors, especially along grassy medians that line Nimitz Highway in Iwilei.
“We are continuing regular maintenance along the H-1/Nimitz corridor three times a week, to make sure you have that regular presence,” Morishige said.
At the same time, he said, 80 homeless people caught up in the H-1 and Nimitz Highway sweeps have moved into shelters since July.
Many others who are homeless in Kakaako and around the viaduct have been living on the street for years and have little intention of accepting help.
Asked where she will go next, Brenda Meheula, 61, told the Star-Advertiser on Monday, “Don’t got the faintest idea.”
Meheula and her brother, David Roque, 52, said they had been living under the viaduct for 15 years and had been cleared out eight or nine times.
They had six dogs with them Monday and said they would not give them up to move into a shelter.
After six years living around the viaduct, Bully Cuesta, 56, knew only that he wanted to find somewhere new where he would be left alone.
“I’m going to stay out of the public’s eye,” Cuesta said.